Author: Katie O'Connor

Planet in Focus 2016 Review: 10 Billion: What’s on Your Plate?

10 Billion: What’s on Your Plate is an eye opening documentary that addresses how the current methods of agricultural production are just not enough. It is not enough to sustain the global population, which by 2050 will rise to 10 billion. What are the alternatives? Artificially produced meat? Eating insects as a source of protein? What if there is not enough food to go around to feed everyone on a daily basis. This does not just mean that everyone gets to eat but that everyone eats a well adjusted and sustainable diet. Director and self-proclaimed “food fighter” Valentin Thurn searches for solutions around the world for the impeding food crisis. Though the film does push to be environmentally conscious of the food we eat, it seems to rely too heavily on scientific innovation and packing us full of GMOs. Regardless, the film does a good job in exposing environmental destruction in the over consumption of meat, over-fishing to exhaustion and small, local farmers often resorting to relying on industry produced seeds to grow their crops. As an alternative, the proposal is made for new food production systems. Thurn’s doc suggests to shift our focus to seeking organic and more local foods. This decentralized method of production keeps food regional. Large scale industrial producers are closely examined with how they genetically modify our food. Yet, without the knowledge of the long terms effects...

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Review: Art Bastard

Art Bastard is a documentary which centres around the art world’s “best kept secret,” Robert Cenedella. The film begins by following Cenedella around a New York subway station where we come to understand the twist and turns of the station as art. We later learn much of his inspiration for his work comes from the city landscape of his much loved New York. New York City appeared as a safe haven for him during his days as an emerging artist. The energy, the people, the different neighbourhoods and even food had its own unique culture that he was most drawn to. Even before he made his mark in the art world, he was very much a product of post-Cold War paranoia. His father was a blacklisted writer, and was raised with the idea of justice and defiance being the strongest character trait. This is particularly evident in his art, as well as how he carries himself as an artist. Cenedella was the type of artist who continued to make art no matter who noticed. His work, often political satire in nature rang true to his modernist sensibilities, which conflicted with popular beliefs of the time. Namely, in his early days before art school. He fashioned buttons which opposed the popularity of Elvis at the time but embraced his love for classical music. The buttons read, “I like Ludwig.” This was...

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Review: Gun Runners

Gun Runners is an inspiring and incredible story which follows two notorious warriors and former cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya who give up their weapons to run in marathons. As part of a government sponsored program to disarm in conflict heavy regions, these once notorious warriors are given a chance to pursue their dreams of becoming professional marathon runners. The film follows Matanda and Arile, who are looking to put their violent pasts behind them and pursue a positive path that will benefit the future of their family, livelihood and this conflict ridden region of Kenya. The audience is guided through a linear progression of events and sees Arile enter international marathons, while Matanda gets involved in the political sphere and dreams of working towards policy change. Anjali Nayar directs a thoughtful and memorable story about leaving violent conflict behind to pursue personal passions. The documentary is set in Kenya’s picturesque Great Rift Valley which is a noted area for international arms trading and marathon running. Gun Runners gives a face to the complexities and personal struggles in war and conflict, yet becomes an inspiring story of self perseverance in attaining a greater sense of...

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TIFF 2016 Review: Mali Blues

Mali Blues centres around Mali-born world musician, Fatoumata Diawara through her dark past which has influenced her irreplaceable passion for music. The documentary follows her through writing and rehearsing for her first ever concert in her home country Mali for the Festival of Niger 2015. German Director Lutz Gregor captures a stunning music culture in Mali where the blues thrives. The country’s hardships are the experiences of these musicians. As creators of artistic expression, they have been violently threatened and ordered to leave the country due to their songs of protest and activism against radical Islamics. Fataoumata and her fellow Mali- born musicians do not see these threats as a barrier to creating music or creative flow. They continue to create music which colours the country’s resilience to the group who is attempting to undermine them and the citizens of Mali. The documentary is coated with lively and warm music and equally impressive are the dazzling colours of outfits and decor. It’s a bright and warm film that pushes the issues of a country’s crisis to the forefront while not losing sight of what means the most to these musicians. This is their right to artistic expression in writing, playing and singing...

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TIFF 2016 Review: Short Cuts Programme 9

This year’s Short Cuts Programme 9 may be one of the most pressing, riskiest and surreal programmes at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. We see the struggle of young motherhood, delusional ideas of what life is meant to be, falling in lust with a snake, a reserve at odds with the mining industry, an unimpressed daughter, and two lovers leaving their old lives behind and transiting to their next life stage on their own. What we can see these shorts have in common is the struggle to find solace, normality and maybe even sanity in everyday life. This selection takes an unreal (at times) yet sensitive approach to a collective issue an individual may face or discover within themselves. The Road to Webequie – 19 minutes The short focuses on a First Nations reserve, which is a long, snowy road away from Thunder Bay, where life is lonely and often faced with personal tragedy. The community is unfairly propositioned by a mining company that views this particular spot as an opportune location to start up their business. However, the residences of Webequie are hesitant to believe the promises of the mining company and fear this will push them out of their homes, leaving them in a worse state then before. We are given a startling glimpse into the lives the residences face within their community through interviews and insight given by youth and their families....

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TIFF 2016 Review: Mostly Sunny

Karenjit Kaur Vohr, a.k.a. Sunny Leone, is a famous Bollywood actress with an enormous fan following. One of the reasons for her immense success as an entertainer is her being a former porn star. As a prominent Bollywood actress, Karenjit has built an unconventional yet notable career. As a former adult film star, her transition into the Bollywood film industry came unblemished. she certainly does have a reputation the brand of Sunny Leone but she proves she has been about to evolve and push her career in a way that would gain her more exposure in the world’s largest film industry. The first part of Mostly Sunny focuses on her fame and her adoring (male) fan base. The remainder of the documentary follows Karenjit’s personal life, including the untimely passing of her parents, her husband and her hectic yet enjoyable career. Karenjit says she is happy and does does not regret the choices she has made in her life or career. One of the most admirable areas of the doc is the opinions of her colleagues, managers, filmmakers and even fans who say no one should judge her based on what she wants to do. This is a healthy outlook that is not shared with extended family from her hometown of Sarnia, Ontario where they detest this aspect of her life. The film does have its weak spots though. It...

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Review: Up For Love

Up For Love begins with Diane (Virginie Efira), a young successful lawyer getting home from work and receiving a phone call. The call is from a man who has found her cell phone. The male caller teases her about knowing that her former lover has been calling her for the last few hours. Diane tries to dismiss this and continues speaking to this mystery man. She is taken by this charming male caller and upon his offer for them to meet, she readily accepts. As a newly single woman, Diane puts on her nicest dress and struts her way to the restaurant to meet this man who has instantly enchanted her. When she arrives at the restaurant, she nervously looks around for him. She is then acquainted with a man, Alexandre (Jean Dujardin, The Artist) standing at 4 foot 5 inches. She is immediately taken back by his size. Alexandre is a confident, “small man,” who recognizes his height as an impediment but still suggests they go out on a surprise outing within an hour of meeting. Regardless of his height, Alexandre has a normal yet successful personal and professional life. He has a son, an enormous dog and an impressive position as an architect. At first Diane finds herself smitten with Alexandre even though he meets her just below the bust line. For Alexandre, it is not a big deal...

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